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Why Does My Cat Headbutt My Dog? (Love or Hate?)

If your cat is headbutting your dog you may be wondering why this is happening and if this is normal…

Why does my cat headbutt my dog?

When your cat headbutts your dog it is usually to transfer its scent onto the dog because it has accepted it as a loved and trusted animal in your household. Cats are known to have scent glands around their body that allow them to mark animals, people, and objects to claim them.

So, now you know. But, is this the same as head bunting? What if your cat just rubs against your dog? How can you tell if your dog likes your cat? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

What is cat headbutting?

Cat headbutting is when a cat knocks its head against its owner, another pet, or object. Then, they are likely to rub their face and cheek in. This overall action is how they transfer their scent and subtly mark it, or them.

When you glance at it there is a clear resemblance to headbutting, but it is really an opportunity for the cat to transfer its scent and show some love. As I said, this is not limited to dogs or animals. It can also be done to objects, like a coffee table, or their owner, which is quite common.

Is cat head bunting & headbutting the same thing?

Bunting and headbutting and basically the same thing. They both mean a cat is rubbing its head to transfer scent. Some may say bunting, others may say headbutting, but, essentially, they are one of the same things.

This bunting is known to be done by domestic cats, but it is not limited to them, feral cats are known to do this in their living environment.

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3 Reasons why a cat would headbutt your dog:

Why does my cat headbutt my dog?

A cat and dog on some grass.

Earlier I explain what this headbutting is, how it compares to bunting, and a brief explanation of why it happens. In this section I will go on to explain, in more detail, some logical reasons why your cat would do this:

01. Your cat trusts the dog

The first key point is trust. The sheer fact that your cat is even willing to get that close to your dog means some real trust. This trust forms a bond that leads the cat to feel obliged to bless the dog with its scent, in the form of this headbutt.

02. Wants to mark your dog with a scent

Once the trust is gained your cat will fear another cat may try and claim their dog as theirs. So, to prevent this it marks its dog with its scent.

A more crude example of this is when you are young, I mean like a toddler age, ever remember not wanting to share your bag of chips with a friend? What did you do?

Well, if you were like some toddlers, you may have coughed in them. Yes, cough. This action marked the chips as yours, and no one else’s. This is similar to the cat’s reasons for marking the dog in this way.

03. Sees your dog as a family member

Now that your dog is trusted and loved by your cat, it sees it as a family member. And, yes, it knows the dog is not a fellow cat, but it has love and respect for it, as it does for a human owner, are you with me?

Therefore, another urge to headbutt it is to claim it as family and mark it to solidify this bond.

What does it mean when a cat rubs against a dog?

If your cat rubs against your dog it can mean several things. The most common reasons are marking it, a gentle greeting, or claiming it as their belonging. Either one is a positive action that classes the dog as a trusted person in its circle of trust.

If your dog is accepting this action from your cat then you know their trust and love is mutual. Dogs that do not like this will normally react viciously so it would be obvious if there were any objections.

Are all dogs aggressive to cats?

Do calico cats get along with dogs?

An angry-looking dog.

Not all dogs are aggressive to cats. But, many are. Sometimes a dog just needs to get used to a cat to relax and accept them. Some dogs will be relaxed with cats naturally, whereas other dogs will need some time and close monitoring to make this happen.

The stereotypical reaction from a dog, towards a cat, is to chase it like crazy, right? And, most of this comes from cartoons on television or even witnessing a dog chasing a cat in real life. And, it is true, many dogs will act in this way. But, not all of them.

How can I tell if my dog likes my cat?

To tell if a dog likes your cat, without putting your cat at risk, you need to observe the body language of the dog. One study revealed a clever way to use sound instead of exposing your cat to danger. This requires a recording of your cat being played to your dog to assess its reaction.

If it reacts aggressively and goes crazy, then you can be sure your cat will be at risk if they meet face to face. Otherwise, it may indicate that it may not be a hostile reaction. However, either way, even if your dog responds calmly, you will still need to monitor them.

How do you introduce a cat to a dog?

Earlier I talked about finding out if your dog likes your cat. Well, one way to work on making them get on it working on their introduction. Here are some tips to make this go easier:

01. Familiarization

The first step is to get your dog used to being near the cat while keeping your cat safe. This can be done by making a physical barrier, such as a gate, so the dog can see but not touch the cat. And then distract the dog with food so its whole focus is not on the cat.

The idea is to see how the dog reacts while eating, to the introduction of the cat. And, to make it feel comfortable with it around.

02. Positive connotation

Another tactic to deal with dogs that may go crazy just by seeing the cat is to keep them close enough to smell each other, but not be seen. This could be done by having them on opposite sides of a door and gauge the reaction.

03. Scent swapping

Sometimes the dog and cat just need to get used to each other’s scent before they even meet. This is where “scent swapping” comes in. Simply switch a scented blanket or clothing item to get them used to the scene to familiarize themselves.

04. Patience & monitoring

The final part, but important part, is to monitor their behavior closely and be very patient. This can sometimes take some time to get right and is not always an overnight process.

How long does it take for a cat to get used to a dog?

To get a cat used to a dog can take, on average 2-3 weeks. But, some interactions are successful right away, others in days, while some never really work out. So, it needs to be handled on a case-by-case basis.

But, the point is, don’t expect it to be an overnight process, it will take some time to get right.

Should I headbutt my cat?

If your cat is trusted and likes it you can consider gently bumping your head with it in return. But, watch how your cat reacts and keep it calm and slow so your cat does not feel threatened by your approach. And, if there is any doubt, don’t do it.

Lindsey Browlingdon